Anchored putting may give golfers an unfair advantage

Ernie Els putts for par on the 6th green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, March 25, 2012. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

Golf is a sport which has been constantly evolving since it was founded in 1457 and first played in the United States in 1786. One big issue that has been plaguing the US Golf Association for the past few years has been anchored putting.

Anchored putting is when a golfer anchors the putter to their belly, also referred to as belly putting. Another form of anchoring is when the golfer creates an anchor point with their forearm. Starting January 1, 2016, these forms of putting are going to be considered illegal.

Adam Scott, who won the Master’s tournament this year, uses a anchored-style stroke for putting. He and eight other golfers from the PGA Tour are planning to sue the USGA for their ruling on this matter.

The big argument for many people is that anchored putting may give some an unfair advantage. To be successful, a player still needs to know how to putt.

Casey Olsen, a senior on the EMU golf team this past season, had a very strong opinion on the issue.

“With banning anchored putting, the following will happen, the tradition of the game stays intact,” Olsen said. “It forces players to conform to a common method of putting, it gives clarification of terminology of how a stroke is defined, it changes the way approximately 15 percent of PGA Tour players putt, equipment companies are forced to eliminate certain product lines, and some PGA pros are forced to change the way they teach.”

Olsen also said if the rule had not changed, the tradition
associated with professional golf would be tarnished.

“If they were to not ban anchored putting, the following would happen,” Olsen said. “The number of players using the anchoring method may continue to rise, more of the golfing youth would be exposed to trying the method, more major championships may be won using the method, the “tradition” of the game as we know it becomes void, certain organizations may adopt the rule and some may not, resulting in bifurcation.”

Olsen said he was very impressed with the way the USGA and the players against the ban, for the most part, have handled themselves.

“One of the main arguments against anchoring is that it does not conform to the tradition of the game,” he said. “I understand why the people who say that have said it. If we are going to talk about tradition, let’s decipher it a little further.

“Tradition is commonly defined by a set of core values or beliefs passed on from one generation to the next. Regardless of how you chose to define it, the crux of the term is affiliated with history. However, if you look through the history of golf, you will see a sport that has been evolving for centuries.”

Todd Williams, ex-golf pro and still a scratch golfer, had his own take on the ruling.

“If it was such an advantage, then everyone would be using the method,” he said. “They shouldn’t ban it. It isn’t like wooden bats versus metal bats in baseball. Its not that big of an advantage.”

Sarah Johnson, a senior on the EMU women’s golf team, said people’s mistakes would still be taking place regardless of the club.

“Many pros who have switched to that style have been able to improve a part of their game because they finally found something that worked for them,” Johnson said. “There’s both give and take with that style.mIf belly putters were so much easier to use, every player would use them. You still have to read the green and being nervous can still make you mess up.”

“So what if more players switch to anchoring putting? There is no evidence of it clearly being a better method,” Olsen said. “If that were true, every player would be using it. But 85 percent don’t. It’s just another way to putt. There isn’t a single player in the top 20 in Strokes Gained that uses anchoring. I just don’t see any scientific evidence that proves otherwise. And the USGA hasn’t mentioned any. Their biggest, only argument is the tradition of the game one. When talking about tradition, anchoring should be the last of their worries. Start with the ball, then the drivers, the shafts, not putting.”

2016 is still a few years away, so the current anchored putting golfers have some time to improve their putting the “traditional” way. Regardless, this issue should make for an interesting next couple of years for the PGA Tour.

Follow Andrew Armbruster on Twitter: @AArmbrusterEcho

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